Medical marijuana legislation passes state Senate, goes to Quinn

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Medical pot bill passes 35-21. Heads to Quinn twitter.com/ZachBuchheit/s…

— Zach Buchheit (@ZachBuchheit) May 17, 2013

SPRINGFIELD – The idea of Illinoisans turning to pot to treat severe illnesses moved closer to reality Friday after the Illinois Senate approved the medicinal use of marijuana over GOP objections it would encourage more serious drug use. The Senate’s 35-21 vote, which followed an emotional debate that lasted more than an hour, moves the legislation carried by state Sen. William Haine (D-Alton) to Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor has said he is “open-minded” toward the measure, which if enacted would make Illinois the 19th state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana. “We are confident a strict, controlled implementation of this for those who suffer pain with the diseases and conditions listed in the act can be well served,” Haine said. “Many of us have anecdotal evidence of the value of this. Doctors’ groups have endorsed this, nurses. “It is a substance, which is much more benign than, for example, powerful prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and the rest. The scourge of these drugs is well known. This is not true of the medical use of marijuana,” said Haine, a former state’s attorney from Downstate Madison County. Friday’s roll call came together on the strength of mostly Democratic votes, though three Republicans joined in supporting Haines’ legislation, as well. They were Sens. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry), Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) and Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). Under his pilot program, users would have to suffer from one of 33 ailments or diseases, including cancer, HIV/AIDS and ALS, and have a doctor’s prescription before they would be allowed to purchase and possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana during a 14-day period. The plan would authorize 22 growers across Illinois and permit 60 dispensaries where users could purchase the plant. Users, growers and sellers would have to undergo fingerprinting and criminal background checks. Employers and landlords could bar medicinal marijuana use in their workplaces and buildings. And, users would have to undergo field sobriety tests if police suspect they are driving under the influence of medical cannabis and could lose their driving privileges and privileges to use pot for their illnesses. “This thing is filed with one check after the other on the possibility of abuse,” Haine said. “It allows cultivation of this substance, which can relieve the terrible pains suffered by people. And they won’t have to go to the dark side to get it. It’ll be grown here in Illinois, not somewhere else.” The plan is opposed by the Illinois Sheriffs Association and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Illinois State Police remained neutral, leaving no law-enforcement agency in support of Haine’s legislation One by one, opponents stood to predict the state couldn’t adequately regulate or police a new marijuana growing and distribution industry, and that its legally accepted use would encourage people to turn toward more illicit drugs. In the debate’s most emotional moment, state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) choked up in making those points. McCarter lost his 21-year-old daughter to an accidental drug overdose. “For every touching story we’ve heard about benefits of those in pain, I remind you today there are a thousand times more parents who’ll never be relieved from the pain of losing a child due to addiction, which in many cases started with the very illegal, FDA-unapproved, addiction-forming drug you’re asking us to make a normal part of our communities,” McCarter told his colleagues, his voice breaking. “As one of those dads, I ask you to vote no.”

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